Nathalie's Notes

Raising the Hardy Boys



 Plain joy on a silver platter

Behind the Picket Fence | Published in Roots to Roofs, a special section of the Yamhill Valley News-Register


Cable networks and home and garden magazines are brimming with helpful tips on how to live graciously. Delight your family and friends with this “simple suggestion” that requires a trip to a metropolitan grocery store to pull off. Or try an “easy afternoon project” that can only happen if your kids are tied to a chair with their mouths taped shut and no one needs to eat dinner tonight.

Good news, friends. I have one simple idea that will transform your ordinary moments into extraordinary memories. Ready?

Write this down: Use the good stuff.

You heard me. Use your good stuff. All of it. All the time. You know what’s a special occasion? Right now. Know why? Because it’s all we have for sure — this moment.

So, go ahead, pull out those cloth napkins for tonight’s takeout. Your best dishes for cereal? You bet.

A friend recently shared that she serves ordinary soup in her nicest china and it struck me in that moment that there’s just no reason not to.

Really. What are we waiting for? Dishes that collect dust in a cupboard to be used maybe once a year seems like an awful waste of real estate. There’s a time and a place for paper plates, sure, but what if we brought our best to the table more often?

So save your Pinterest ideas and spare the hot glue mess. Just use what you already have collecting dust — on any random Tuesday instead of only once a year on Thanksgiving.

I have a gorgeous vase I never used to display in case it broke. What is even the point of that? Now I fill it with weeds and sticks my boys cheerfully bring in after playing outside. Sometimes, I fill it with lemons and call it decoration. Because I can. It makes me smile, and isn’t that really the point? Finding joy in the little things? Being creators of our own joy?

Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what I think this spin around the sun comes down to: putting life’s lemons in a vase, displaying them among your best stuff and calling that good. Because you know what? It is.

As a bonus tip, I offer you this. Want to know how to make your family really appreciate the meals you make? Stop cooking them altogether. I didn’t even realize I did this but for about six months following my divorce, we pretty much ate what was once an occasional treat: “snack dinner.” I doubt my boys will ever eat another Ritz cracker as long as they live.

Anyway, as I started coming back from that place of chaos when life as you know it gets flipped upside down, I went ahead and cooked dinner. I didn’t think it was a big deal until my youngest came running into the kitchen for something to drink and saw me standing at the stove. His eyes widened and he grinned. He went running to his brother to announce, Mama is making dinner! Real dinner!

See, I had no idea they cared either way, because usually dinner was met with a shrug or an “Oooh, this?” or a comment on the smell, appearance or wish for it to be something else. All those times I thought nobody cared that I made dinner, it turns out they totally did.

So if you happen to cook for other people and they don’t quite show how much they appreciate it, consider this: Cooking dinner for someone else is an awesome way to say, I love you. On behalf of your family, thank you!

Want some simple tips for making ordinary things special? Add sprinkles. Instant specialness. Or, serve it in a cone. Breakfast oatmeal in a cone, with or without sprinkles — bam, best breakfast ever. Throw some fruit on the plate for balance, maybe. Crushed tortilla chips on top of most things adds a festive touch.

Stop by sometime and you’ll see for yourself: I now serve many plain things on the gorgeous silver platter I got as a wedding gift 16 years ago. I took it to a potluck once. At a campground. It now has some commemorative gouges in it.

I regret nothing. Though, I will say, I was stunned at how scratched up it got in our, uh, primitive dishwashing facilities. Maybe that’s why people don’t pack platters to go camping. Plus, it was heavy. But that’s another story.

That platter, it turns out, outlasted my marriage, and I suspect it’ll be around for a long time to come. Because it’s perfect for serving up everything from brownies made from a box to homemade meringues, the making of which seemed like a good idea at the time.

If I’m feeling really fancy, I throw down Nana’s hand crocheted doily. And just like that, the party’s on.


Nathalie Hardy may or may not have served Domino’s pizza on the aforementioned platter during this writing. She welcomes your feedback at


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